Jagielka and Distin
Try as they might, and they’re making an OK fist of it, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin are not the world’s best ball playing centre backs. There has been a definite improvement, especially in Jagielka, but their first instinct is still to look up, and look long. There are times when we’re possession based and it looks like a nightmare waiting to happen. It’s still early days but you would imagine a ball playing centre back is on Roberto Martinez’s shopping list. Sorry Johnny, you don’t seem to be the answer.
Barry and McCarthy
Yes Romelu Lukaku has had an excellent impact since deadline day, and yes his goals are so important to us, but has he been a better signing that Gareth Barry or James McCarthy so far? Well that’s not so clear cut. Right from the first game against Chelsea, Barry has been integral to the way we’ve played. His experience means his positional sense is spot on, and being in the right place at the right time offers additional protection to the centre backs, and they need it. He offers discipline, and gives Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines more licence to join the attack. McCarthy may have taken a game or two more to break in but he adds pace and dynamism to the partnership with Barry.
Baines and Pienaar
Before his injury there were mutterings that Steven Pienaar was not the same player as we saw before his ill fated move to Tottenham. In his absence we’ve seen that actually, whether he’s still as good or not, we miss him. And Leighton Baines misses him. Without the natural width and understanding that the two have we end up a bit lopsided, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and Leon Osman are all naturally right sided players, and all have differing qualities from the South African. That first touch - his first for the first team in over a month remember - was a reminder of what we miss when he’s not in the team.
The International Break
Apparently only Bayern Munich had more players on international duty across the world last week, and that showed in some of the performances. It shows the great strides we have made over the last few years that we don’t just have a couple of Scottish internationals and some from Sweden, we’ve got first choice England players, a couple of Belgian internationals, Dutch, Irish, and many more. Whilst that’s great for the profile of the club it makes things tougher after international breaks. Still, a win is a win.
Quick mention for the opposition this weekend. Everyone, and I mean everyone, tipped Hull for a tough season. And by that we all meant they were dead certs to get relegated. Well we should all get baking that humble pie now, we may well be eating it in seven months or so. Sitting in ninth, level on points with Manchester United, Hull haven’t looked out of their depth. We saw on Saturday that they have some decent quality players and Steve Bruce used all his Premier League nous to make some shrewd signings,Yannick Sagbo is starting to fit in, and Curtis Davies, Allan McGregor, and in particular Tom Huddlestone have been very good.